music equipment reviews

  • Claude Lakey // Sponsor Love

    Today I’d like to spotlight Claude Lakey, one of our our wonderful Teen Jazz Sponsors!

    We have a number of sponsors without whom, we would be unable to do what we do here at Teen Jazz. As a big thanks to each of these fantastic companies and artists, I’d like to begin introducing a few of them to you.

    For those of you unfamiliar with the company, Claude Lakey is a mouthpiece and ligature company that has over 50 years of experience in the industry. In the 1955, saxophonist Claude Lakey began working on the design for what would become the “Original Claude Lakey.” In the 1960s, he began to make his own molds to create products that were up to his standards and in the 1970s his designs began to grow in popularity. According to the website, “Claude Lakey Mouthpieces is now one of the most recognized names in the music industry. The company exports to over 20 countries around the world and works with 4 US distributors to ensure that our mouthpieces are available to all musicians, no matter where they are.”

    Some of the popular Claude Lakey products include the “Original” mouthpiece, a versatile hard rubber mouthpiece and the “Compass” ligature with its innovative design.

    COMPASS LIGATURE from Claude Lakey Inc. on Vimeo.

    Site | Twitter | Facebook

    Where to Start: Products | Store Locator | Legacy

    Want to be featured on Teen Jazz? Check out our sponsorship options here.

    October 15, 2014 • Teen Jazz • Views: 2404

  • An Experiment | What Music Gear Would You Buy if You Were Given $5000

    Alright, let’s play a game inspired by Darren Rowse over at DPS Photography School and put together a hypothetical situation.

    Let’s say you walk into a popular music store in your area. The owner tells you he’s going to give you $5,000 to spend on anything you want in the store, but you only have an hour to choose what you want. It can be an instrument, any accessories, cases, books, or some other music gear you’d find in any normal music store.

    What would you get?

    You can get as many products as you like as long as it fits the $5,000 bill or less.

    You can use the prices at Amazon Music Store to get started.

    Don’t get too caught up in the details – I’m just curious as to what your dream setup would be.

    May 15, 2014 • Reviews • Views: 1884

  • Sponsor Love // KDI Music

    KDI Music | Sponsor Love on Teen Jazz We have a number of sponsors who, without them, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do here at Teen Jazz. As a big thanks to each of them, I’d like to begin introducing a few of sponsors to you.

    This week, I’d like to share a little bit about KDI Music with you.

    KDI Music is an online reseller of music instruments and accessories based in Southern California. They carry everything from saxophones to ukuleles, reprints of vintage music posters to instruments stands, and more.

    One of the great things about KDI Music is that their team personally tests and reviews each of the instruments that they carry, guaranteeing you a quality product that will hold up and be reliable when you need it most. It’s definitely something that sets them apart from most online music retailers and is reassuring when you’re making the investment in a new instrument.

    Additionally, KDI Music supports various music and educational organizations, giving back to the community and volunteering their time. They are sponsors of Nisei Week (held in Little Tokyo each year) and the Nisei Week Foundation Marching Band, the Disney Alumni Club and Historical Society, and more.

    If you still aren’t convinced, KDI offers free shipping on all orders placed within the United States.

    Site | Twitter | Facebook

    Where to start: New Arrivals | Specials | Sales Items

    Want to be featured on Teen Jazz? Check out our sponsorship options here.

    March 24, 2014 • Resources • Views: 2363

  • Advice for Buying New Music Gear

    When buying a new instrument, there are countless options that can make the decision process overwhelming. Here are a few tips to help make that process a bit easier.

    Figure out how much you can spend on a new instrument

    This is an important thing to consider. If you’re just starting out, it doesn’t make much sense to invest thousands into a new instrument if you aren’t sure whether or not you’ll stick with it. For the most part, you can get decent student instruments (or guitars) in the $200-600 range. You might even be able to find some great discounts on sites like Raise too. If you’re looking for a professional-level instrument, the prices are going to be significantly more (generally $1000+). Figuring out your budget first makes the choice a lot easier because it restricts your options and lets you focus on what you need in an instrument for your budget.

    What exactly are you looking for?

    There are times where you know exactly what you’re looking for. You know you want the Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX to add to your DJing equipment. Or you want to add the Yamaha DTX402K Electronic Drum Kit to your collection. But a lot of the time, even when you know what instrument you want to play, different manufacturers and models offer players different features.

    For example, when buying a new flute, you need to decide if you want a wingtip headjoint or if you need a curved headjoint (for really young players that can’t quite reach) instead of a traditional headjoint. Do you need an open-hole flute or closed-hole? What about the foot joint? Do you need a B-foot joint or is C okay?

    The same goes for guitar. Acoustic or electric? Hollow body or no? What kind of pickups? If you go with acoustic, do you need electronics? Nylon string or steel string? The list goes on.

    So before you get caught up in features, figure out what you’re planning on accomplishing with the instrument. Is it something that you need just to get you through high school (before quitting or upgrading) or is it something that you plan on hanging onto longer? What will you be using it for?

    Different features are attached to different prices, so that’s also something to be aware of. The more options an instrument has, the more pricey it’s likely to be. Student instruments tend to have fewer options than professional instruments, and so, they can be much more affordable. But if some of the options on the more expensive instruments are things you can’t live without, then you may be looking at a pricier instrument (unless you look for something used).

    With the resources available on the internet, it’s easier than ever to do a significant amount of research on various instruments before you make a purchase. For example, it might be useful for you to check out revitalizing downtowns blog to read up on some tips before you buy your new electric guitar. Musical instruments are expensive so you don’t want to waste your money. You can check out the manufacturer’s specs, reviews from other players who have purchased the instrument, and reviews from musicians who have had the opportunity to play an instrument even if they don’t own it. In between visits to stores, your teacher, and the internet, you can pretty much learn everything you need to know before you try an instrument out and make a decision for yourself.

    But if you aren’t totally sure, check with your teacher. They may have some recommendations regarding what you’ll need. You can also do a bit of research on forums to find out what other players’ recommendations are. For example, SaxontheWeb is a great community of saxophonists that would gladly help point players in the right direction.

    Once you figure out what features you need your instrument to have, you’ll have made a big step towards narrowing the list down.

    I already have an instrument/piece of music equipment, but I’m looking to upgrade.

    Already have a student instrument? Just looking for something a bit different? Once again your best bet is to do a bit of research online and/or talk to your music instructor. At this point, you might have one or two options in mind already, so make sure you ask yourself “why” you want to upgrade. Figuring out the “why” will help you focus on the important features you need to look for in a new instrument.

    Research instrument costs

    Now that you’ve determined your budget and decided on the instrument you’d like to get, do a bit of research to see what kind of pricing is available and if there are any deals going on. Take note that instruments are often available at different prices online from those in stores. Used instruments are also more affordable than something brand new (and sometimes you can find instruments that are in “like new” condition).

    If you’re considering buying online, be aware of shipping costs. Sometimes the price of instrument may be too good to be true because the shipping charges actually price it over the cost of buying one at the store. You also need to be aware of potential scams (I know players who have had some bad luck on ebay, but I also know a few who have had good luck).

    Doing your research online can also help you if you decide to negotiate at a music store. Knowing how an instrument prices online and letting the sales rep know that you are aware of it may play to your advantage. Keep in mind that not all music stores offer flexible pricing, but some are willing to discuss price.

    Play it before you pay for it.

    Everyone is different, and so every instrument will respond differently. Just because one particular instrument is popular, doesn’t mean that it’s going to work for you. Your best bet is to try anything you’re considering yourself (and maybe bring a friend or teacher along for a second opinion).

    If you’re looking for a place to try an instrument out, check out local music stores (particularly those that may specialize in your instrument). There’s no substitute for holding the instrument in your hands and knowing how it feels and sounds. Make sure you give yourself the chance to play around with any instrument you’re considering before you make the leap.

    If you’ve found this article helpful, we’d love it if you’d share it! We’d also love to hear your stories about buying a new instrument and the process you went through in the comments. If you have any tips that aren’t in the article, we’d like to hear them too!

    August 13, 2013 • Music and Career Advice • Views: 2092

  • Review of the Ottolink Mouthpiece by Kenn Hadnot

    After playing Alto Sax for 8 years, switching to Tenor Sax was a very rough experience. Tenor Sax was bigger, heavier, and sounded much different than the alto saxophone. However, I did love the lower extended range of the tenor saxophone. I ended up picking up an Ottolink New York from a local music store. (I previously played on a Selmer S80 C*, it was a good mouthpiece, but the lower register didn’t have the aggressive sound I was looking for).

    Since, I have tried several other mouthpieces including everything from a Meyer 7* to a Dukoff Hollywood and the Vandoren V16, but nothing compared to the Ottolink New York.

    The Otto link had the aggression that I was looking for; it played all the way down to the low Bb powerfully, in tune, and it came out effortlessly. The Ottolink was exactly what I was looking for in a mouthpiece. It sounds amazing in all registers, especially the low end. It is incredibly responsive and durable.

    The Otto link New York has a wider tip and larger chamber than most tenor saxophone mouthpieces giving it a darker, rounder, and “fatter” sound. It comes in sizes 5, 5*, 6, 6*, 7, 7*, 8, 8*, 9, 9*, 10, and 10*. Size 5 has a tip opening of .080 and the 9* has a tip opening of .125. I use a 7* with my Selmer Mark VI. The list price is $200, but you can find it online at a more affordable price at places like Woodwind and Brasswind.

    Get the Mouthpiece:

    Otto Link Metal Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece, 6*

    Otto Link Metal Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece, 7

    Otto Link Metal Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece, 7*


    kenn-hadnotWritten by – Kenn Hadnot, Contributor

    Kenn Hadnot has been playing alto and tenor saxophone for about 11 years. He currently attends Shoreline Community College, but intends to transfer to the Cornish College of the Arts in January 2007 as a Jazz Studies major.

    January 6, 2013 • Reviews • Views: 2030

  • Review of the Buffet B12 Clarinet

    When I began to double on clarinet, I needed an affordable and playable horn. By chance, I stumbled upon a used Buffet B12 clarinet, and I am so glad that I was able to start out on such a great instrument.

    I had a few issues with pitch on the instrument. For me, the standard barrel was too long and so I had the tendency to play flat. I ended up buying a few shorter barrels and I haven’t had any issues with it since.

    The clarinet was made from plastic instead of wood and so I was quite happy I didn’t have to deal with the care or inconsistencies that I’ve been told exist with wood clarinets. And, because it was a student clarinet, it was made for a beginning clarinet player, like myself, so the function of each button was clear and it eased the time I spent learning the instrument.

    I’d like to eventually move to a professional wood clarinet, but for now I’m quite happy with the Buffet B12. I think it’s a great start for clarinet doublers or for those taking up their first instrument.

    If you play clarinet, have you tried the B12? What do you think? What do you play?

    Get the Buffet B12 Student Clarinet on Amazon

    January 2, 2013 • Reviews • Views: 2421

  • Review of the P Mauriat Saxophones

    P. Mauriat was at IAJE last year (2005), but this was the first year I actually checked out their saxophones. I played every tenor and alto saxophone available at the booth. Three of the tenors impressed me, the burnished bronze tenor sax, rolled tone hole tenor sax and the new prototype tenor sax, but I most enjoyed playing either the burnished bronze tenor sax or prototype sax. I also liked the sound on their rolled tone hole alto sax.

    Since tenor sax isn’t really my thing yet, I am always checking out tenor saxes to aid the process of developing what my voice is going to be on tenor. The P. Mauriat tenors were definitely comfortable for me as far as sound, mechanics, and resistance. I really enjoyed playing the burnished bronze tenor sax and prototype tenor sax, but both I found to be vastly different from the other. The burnished bronze tenor sax, for me, was a much brighter saxophone than the prototype tenor and the prototype tenor was much fuller and had a lot of bottom to its sound.

    The P. Mauriat saxes are available with or without the high F# key which I thought was a kind of cool feature. They have intermediate and professional horns which provides a little something for everyone and the saxes are very attractive looking in addition to their great sound.

    For more information you can check out the P. Mauriat saxophone web site.

    Check out P Mauriat Saxophones on Amazon

    December 7, 2012 • Reviews • Views: 2143

  • Review of Unison Saxophones

    The Unison sax company was started about 20 years ago by Shunwa Chang and at the time of writing, Rheuben Allen was president of the company (he now owns his own company).

    Unison has a few different models of saxophones including student saxes, the S Series saxophones and the new Hollywood Legend saxes. The S Series is their professional line; the S100 – straight soprano, the S200 – curved soprano, the S300 – alto, the S400 – tenor, and S500 – bari. The saxes are designed by the people at Unison, brought to professional players, and adjustments are made according to the input from the players.

    Unison saxes are well-known as being easy to play, with good pitch and response at a good price. They have several lacquers – shiny polished silver, polished gold (standard gold lacquer), black nickel with gold keys, black nickel with silver keys, silver body with gold keys, satin silver, and satin gold. Unison plates their gold over nickel as opposed to silver which gives it its quicker response. Other features specific to Unison saxes are their under slung octave key (the idea came from the old Buescher saxes), and low bracing on the low keys – i.e. low C, B, Bb. Unison is also the only company that manufactures the keyless sax – originally designed by Sigurd Rascher in the 50s to help players learn altissimo and the overtone series.

    For a long time, I played on Unison saxes – the S300 alto, a custom tenor, and an S100 soprano. I was previously playing on a Yamaha student sax and was looking for a better, affordable, higher level (professional) sax to switch to and in my search I found the Unison saxes.

    When I began playing Unison saxes, they had not become popular yet, but I tried them out and sounded better on them than what I had. When I was trying them out, I tried out a few variations on the sax – I tried out the gold lacquer, the black lacquer with gold keys, and the black lacquer with silver keys. I ended up liking the way I sounded on the gold lacquer the best. So, I figured it would be good to move to Unison saxes. At the time, I was already playing a Unison satin gold curved soprano, but didn’t really like it. I never was fond of curved sopranos because they sound too “honky” to me, which is why I switched to the black lacquer straight soprano (which I love).

    While playing on my Unison Saxes, I found they were pretty decent, and much better than having a student sax. When you switch to a better sax, you find that things lay a little easier on the horn. The sax also had more keys which gave me a better range on the horn and helped with intonation, giving me more variations on fingerings. The pinky keys also were easier to use and slide from one to the other than the student Yamaha sax. The Unison gold lacquer saxes (my tenor and alto) were a little resistant (which I only discovered when I made a move to the sax I play on now), but I was happy with how I sounded.

    However, overtime, I found that the durability of the Unison Saxes was not as good as it could be. I use my horns at least three hours a day – and after a year or so it just wore the saxes out. At one point, I was playing my alto in a musical, and the frequent rehearsals and performances began to wear down on my sax. After a few weeks, keys, pads and screws would come loose and in a few cases, fall off. I recently ran into another sax player who also plays Unison horns, and she said the same thing – it’s a great sax, but it just doesn’t hold up very well.

    I recently switched to playing the black lacquer Yamaha 875EX. I switched because the sax played better than my Unison. I could control it more, it sounded fuller, and it just felt better to me. Essentially, I sounded better not working as hard as I did to sound good on my Unison. Overall, I think the Unison saxes are a really good quality, affordable sax. I still have my Unison alto as a “back-up” sax and still play Unison tenor and soprano. I think that Unisons would make a great “back-up” sax or intermediate/professional sax for high school/college kids.

    November 27, 2012 • Reviews • Views: 2542

  • Review of the Gilbert Bouton Saxophones

    At IAJE 2006, ARK Corporation’s GB saxophones were definitely something to take note of. These handmade French saxophones designed by Gilbert Bouton all played great. Their European design was very unique but had the basic core elements that still make them appealing here in the states. The designer, Gilbert Bouton is new in the US and is researching US consumers’ opinions on how to improve his saxophones for the US market – and I must honestly say with the expertise put into these saxophones, there isn’t much room for improvement.

    Some of the things that stood out with these saxophones were their titanium pearls, so that the pearls do not wear down and the right hand placement on the baritone saxophone which seemed low. Apparently this hand position is popular with the classical saxophonists in Europe. However, the creator takes digital analysis’ of the saxophonists’ hand positions and crafts the saxophone to match the location best for each player.

    Yet another unique quality that the saxophones have, is that in lieu of using brass, Gilbert Bouton has created different alloys. In the words of ARK Corporation’s president, Andris Kursietis, “While the saxes were created and designed in France, by a French sax expert (Gilbert Bouton), they are actually assembled in his own factory in Taiwan. He uses alloys created to his own specifications (not off-the-shelf metals), many of which he has patented.”

    There are a variety of GB saxophones available, but they are a little expensive. Their silver nickel tenor played absolutely amazing, but was around $6,490 . The saxophones are assembled in France by the saxophone guru repairman there, so they are surely worth the price, it is just the rare person who could afford one.

    I am going to talk a little bit more about the silver nickel tenor since it was so fantastique. For another thousand dollars, you could buy a satin gold neck that improved the sound of the saxophone noticeably. However, the saxophone was magnificent sounding enough on its own. Although it was an expensive saxophone, it would definitely be worth the investment to anyone who is looking for a new tenor sax.

    November 26, 2012 • Reviews • Views: 2214

  • Review of the Jody Jazz DV Mouthpiece

    Primarily being an Alto Player, my sound on Tenor Sax has been an issue. I’m always trying to figure out how I will sound best; which means I try not like an Alto Player playing Tenor and I’m searching for my “voice” on the instrument. I had been playing on a Meyer 7 Hard Rubber Mouthpiece, but felt like I had an “average Tenor Player” sound. So I was open to trying new stuff and to find something new. That’s how I discovered the Jody Jazz DV mouthpiece at the IAJE conference.

    When Jody Espina created the DV mouthpiece, he was looking to create the most efficient mouthpiece. Using a new facing technology, he faces the curve so that there are no dead spots in the reed vibration. The DV is available for Tenor Saxophone in the following facings of 7, 7*, 8*. The price is $495.00 with a Rovner Ligature, Cap, Moutpiece Pouch and shipping included. The DC Mouthpiece is hand finished. It is now available for the alto as well.

    At the IAJE Conference, Jody himself was there. I talked to him a bit, trying out different mouthpieces. Initially, we established that I wanted to sound “better” (I was not very specific) and what I was playing on (the Meyer). He had me try out a few of his mouthpieces, all great mouthpieces, but none of them were really what I was looking for.

    Eventually, I got around to trying the NEW DV. When I first picked it up, I was surprised at the unique design. I tried it out and it was perfect – exactly what I was looking for. I was going for a more contemporary/pop/modern sound on Tenor, and I found it with the DV Mouthpiece. Additional benefits of the mouthpiece were that altissimo was really easy and it had a smooth sound with little resistance.

    Jody Espina had me try both the 7 and 7* mouthpieces and I fell in love with the 7*. Playing the mouthpiece made me sound like “me” on tenor and not just another tenor player.

    **Full disclosure: The tenor mouthpiece that I currently (2014) play is a Brancher. I have the DV mouthpiece but it is no longer what I use on a regular basis.

    Get the Mouthpiece:
    Jody Jazz DV Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece DV 7 (.101)

    Jody Jazz DV Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece DV 7* (.108)

    November 11, 2012 • Reviews • Views: 3186